Google just keeps adding features to its web-based apps. This time, as CNet News reports, the company has built video and voice chat features into its Gmail web-based e-mail software. The functionality started rolling out to users yesterday afternoon, and it should now be available worldwide.
So, how did Google implement video chat in a web app? This is more than sophisticated AJAX trickery, since the feature requires a special browser plugin to work. Said plugin is available for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome in Windows as well as Firefox on the Mac. Users of Safari, Opera, and Linux will apparently have to keep relying on Skype for their video-chatting needs for now.
Here's a short video of a Google engineer demonstrating the functionality:
If the "Video & more" option shows up in Gmail for you, then you should be able to download the plugin, invite other users to do the same, and start video chatting. CNet's Rafe Needleman says video quality might be a little more consistent than in Skype, since traffic runs through the Google servers. However, he notes that the feature "used up all . . . available CPU resources and made other apps slow to respond" on his two-year-old PC.